Perseverance pays off on the long road of grief.
by Yvonne Kays
Healing has been so slow.
The windshield wipers sloshed back and forth as I struggled to see the road through the blurry glass. My work with youth and families was rewarding, but tonight I was bone-tired and ready to be home.
Pushing the garage door opener as I turned into my driveway, I saw the welcoming light of seven candles in my living room window.
I hated coming home to a dark house after my husband died; it shouted of loneliness.
I had been in a quaint little shop on the Oregon coast when I overheard another customer say, “I just love the warm light of this Swedish candelabrum. I put one in the window on a timer to welcome me home.”
It sounded so inviting that I splurged on one for myself. Now I smiled at its cheerful glow.
Once in the garage, I could hear the excited whining of my new golden lab puppy, Honey, in the back yard. Jumping up and down, she rushed to greet me as I opened the door.
“OK, OK, I’ll feed you. Is that the only reason you are so excited to see me?” I asked as I reached for her dish. Tail wagging, she turned in circles and ignored my sarcasm. Dogs are such good friends, never holding grudges or pretending. Her enthusiastic welcome always dispelled my loneliness.
Humming as I filled her water dish, I noticed a comfortable, peaceful feeling settling deep inside. It was good to be home. The pain and emptiness in my heart seemed to be receding.
It had been five years since my husband died suddenly from a heart attack. My world was shattered, my heart torn in half; I plunged into great darkness. Loss after loss, the season of grief continued as I lost my father, my mother, a beloved cousin, an aunt, one of my best friends — even my dog, Yainex — in a span of four years.
Light and music
Light always overcomes darkness, I thought, snapping the light switch on in the hallway.
I punched the button on the CD player as I walked by the loft room on my way to change into jeans and a sweatshirt. Soft flute and piano music filled the empty rooms, with birdcalls and ocean sounds. Music was a healing balm.
Coming back into the living room, I glanced at the TV. I couldn’t remember the last time I turned it on. After my husband’s death, I couldn’t deal with all the bad news it blared. I chose to let the world go on without me, making home my oasis, a quiet place to mend.
After heating some leftover stew in the microwave and putting a log on the fire, I settled into my blue recliner with my journal. I glanced at the title: God’s Comforting Things.
I had chosen to focus on the positive things after my husband died, to record words and events that brought comfort to my broken heart. I turned to the Psalms every morning and wrote down scriptures that spoke to me. He promised to bind up the brokenhearted and to care for the widow, a word I first recoiled from when I realized I am one of those now.
On days when sneaker waves of grief brought tears coursing down my cheeks, I would cling to the promises and rejoice in what I had, not what I had lost.
My journey of recovery started with recording the startling words I heard in my heart early in the morning, two days after my husband died: “I will do a new thing.”
“Where is this new thing, Lord?” I asked out loud. “I still don’t see it.”
Silence was my only answer, but hope flitted across my heart. God always does what He says, but not always in my time frame.
Reading books about grief and attending grief support groups brought understanding of this wasteland of the heart. I was not alone in grief. My eyes landed on a quote from Elizabeth Elliot:
When our souls lie barren in a winter which seems hopeless and endless, God has not abandoned us. His work goes on. He asks acceptance of the painful process and our trust that He will indeed give resurrection life.
Acceptance had slowly come.
Facing the darkness
“I must face the darkness,” was the next entry I had scribed the month after my husband’s death. Smothering darkness shrouded the future and cloaked the world in gray.
Words of comfort flowed from Scripture the following day: “When I sit in darkness, the Lord himself will be my Light. I will be patient . . . God will bring me out of my darkness into the light, and I will see his goodness” (Micah 7:8, 9, TLB).
“Please put adventures into my life,” I had written next.
Friends came alongside to propose plans I hardly dreamed of: first, a trip on a ferry to Alaska; the next year, two-weeks in Oaxaca; then a train ride through the Canadian Rockies; later, attending the Pendleton Round-up. Each entry was evidence of God’s faithful provision.
“I believe that You have good plans for me, Lord,” I said.
After journaling about the day and praying, I slipped into bed. Drifting off to sleep with peaceful music still playing, I had a vivid dream.
I was riding my bike in traffic and I noticed a black pickup like my husband’s parked at a gas station. To my amazement, my husband was the one pumping gas. He was young again, and oh so handsome.
After riding over to him, I jumped off the bike. I gave him a huge hug and kissed him on the cheek.
“I’m so glad to see you!” I said. “Please, come back and see me later. I need to ride this bicycle home, but I want to talk with you.” And with that, I climbed back on the bike and rode off.
Suddenly I awoke . . . and burst out laughing at the absurdity of the dream. If I had really seen my husband, I would have thrown my bike in the back of the pickup and said, “OK, where are we going?”
In the past when I dreamed of my husband, I awoke feeling extremely sad, not wanting to leave him in the dream. But this time, I felt peaceful, even joyful.
And bike riding — it is just not my thing. My bike has been in the barn for ten years with a flat tire, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been on it. I’d much rather take Honey for a walk than ride my bike.
The dream came as a sign of healing. I’m still on the journey God has planned for me, and I have things to do. So I’ll keep on pedaling. There is something new up ahead, just around the bend. And I believe it’s good.
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